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Two unbeaten home records, a touchline feud and a cup rematch – Town’s festive fixtures, plus predictions

20 December, 2019 - 06:00
Steve Evans and Paul Lambert will meet again at Portman Road on Boxing Day Picture: PA/PAGEPIX

Steve Evans and Paul Lambert will meet again at Portman Road on Boxing Day Picture: PA/PAGEPIX

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It’s one of the busiest and most important times in the football calendar. MARK HEATH previews Ipswich Town’s festive fixtures - and offers a few predictions...

Ex-Ipswich Town striker Ellis Harrison has scored six goals for Portsmouth this season. Picture: PORTSMOUTHFCEx-Ipswich Town striker Ellis Harrison has scored six goals for Portsmouth this season. Picture: PORTSMOUTHFC

Saturday, December 21: Portsmouth away (3pm)

The immovable force meets the irresistible object - Town, with the best away record in the league, travel to 10th placed Pompey, one of only two teams in League One who remain unbeaten at home. More on the other in a minute!

Kenny Jackett's men had a 10-game unbeaten run snapped last time out, courtesy of a 4-1 thumping at Accrington, so will be looking to start a new streak as Town come to visit.

Pompey have lost just five of their 19 league games so far, and drew 2-2 with high-flying Peterborough in their last home clash.

Midfielder Ronan Curtis is their dangerman, having already netted eight goals this season.

Ex-Town striker Ellis Harrison has bagged eight times in all competitions, with John Marquis on five. Another former Ipswich star, Brett Pitman, has scored three times for Pompey in limited action.

On paper, this looks a tough test for a Town side who have won just one of their last 10 games.

Mark's prediction: 1-1 draw

Ipswich Town players celebrate their 4-0 win over Gillingham in the EFL Trophy in October. Picture: STEVE WALLERIpswich Town players celebrate their 4-0 win over Gillingham in the EFL Trophy in October. Picture: STEVE WALLER

Boxing Day, Thursday, December 26th: Gillingham at home (3pm)

Ding ding, round three!

In the Blue corner is Paul Lambert, while across from him on Boxing Day will be old foe Steve Evans, for a game where it might be wise to keep one eye on the technical areas.

The two had a spectacular bust-up after Town beat the Gills 1-0 back in September, with Evans refusing to shake Lambert's hand post-match and accusing the Town boss of making threats on the touchline.

In response, Lambert accused Evans of lying, said that, unlike his counterpart, he 'is a real Glasgow man' and pledged to 'never interact with him again.'

He kept his word as the pair stayed apart for round two, an easy 4-0 EFL Trophy win in October, but with the added pressure of points at stake, will the Scottish rivalry flare up again?

The Gills are sitting in mid-table, with Brandon Hanlan and on-loan Alex Jakubiak their joint-leading scorers with five. It's a game that Town really should be winning.

Mark's prediction: 2-0 Town win.

Alan Judge celebrates his dramatic winner at Lincoln City last month. The two sides meet again on December 29. Picture: PAGEPIX LTDAlan Judge celebrates his dramatic winner at Lincoln City last month. The two sides meet again on December 29. Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

Sunday, December 29: Lincoln City away (3pm)

The two sides will meet for a third time this season at Sincil Bank, having shared 180 minutes of FA Cup action in November.

After a 1-1 draw at Portman Road, Alan Judge popped up with a dramatic late winner in the replay to give Town their first FA Cup win for 10 years.

When they clash in the league, the Blues will surely be the favourites again.

Since the departure of brilliant bosses the Cowley brothers to Huddersfield, the Imps have been considerably less than mighty and currently sit in 15th spot in the table, under new manager Michael Appleton.

They've won their last two on the bounce though - a 1-0 win over Tranmere and a 2-0 triumph at Burton - so maybe there are signs that they can put a run together.

On-loan Nottingham Forest striker Tyler Walker is the man Town will have to watch, having bagged nine goals so far this campaign, eight coming in the league. Again, this is the sort of game that Town will need to win if they are to push for automatic promotion.

Mark's prediction: 1-0 Town win.

Tomas Holy saves a last-minute penalty in Town's 0-0 draw with league leaders Wycombe. The teams meet again on New Year's Day. Picture: STEVE WALLERTomas Holy saves a last-minute penalty in Town's 0-0 draw with league leaders Wycombe. The teams meet again on New Year's Day. Picture: STEVE WALLER

New Year's Day, Wednesday January 1, 2020: Wycombe Wanderers away (3pm)

The BIG one - a clash that, were it to happen now, would be a meeting of the top two sides in League One.

That's exactly what it was of course when the two met on November 26th at Portman Road, sharing one of the more eventful 0-0 draws you'll ever see.

First, Luke Chambers had what looked a perfectly good goal ruled out for a reason which is still unclear, before 6ft 9ins stopper Tomas Holy brilliantly saved Joe Jacobson's 87th minute penalty.

That draw meant the gap between the sides remained at five points, although that has now stretched to seven as Wanderers keep on rolling while Town, who have a game in hand, stumbled.

Wycombe have lost just one of their 20 league clashes so far and boast the stingiest defence in the league, having conceded just 14 goals. Like Portsmouth, they are unbeaten at home.

That man Jacobson is their leading scorer with seven, while you always have to be aware of 'Beastmode' Adebayo Akinfenwa, the striker who revels in the title of 'Strongest Man in Football' and can do bits on the pitch too, with six goals and four assists to his name so far.

Mark's prediction: 1-1 draw.


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